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Four years of stress and ‘academic vigor’ for one moment of glory

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t Gunn, the colleges a student is accepted to and the college he ends up attending have a significant bearing on his self-confidence. Gunn’s heavy “college culture” is what drives its academic vigor. Students’ determination to get into a high-ranked school is the main reason why Gunn is perceived as a competitive school. In my four years at high school, I, along with many of my peers, have experienced this firsthand. From freshman to senior year, there was never a moment when I wasn’t involved in preparing for the college applications I would be sending out in Dec. 2013. Just before my freshman year started, I began receiving college counseling from a private company, something that I later realized many others were doing too.

The counseling took a toll on my energy. The first thing I was tasked to do was to set up a specialized profile that would give me an academic identity. For the rest of my high school career, I would have to make academic decisions that adhered to this concocted profile. My career specialty of choice was journalism. Luckily for me, journalism was and still is the profession I enjoy and now pursue. However, I still felt pressured in feeling that every activity I did would be precisely catalogued in my Common Application and considered by college admissions officials.

Of course, as with many other students here, I went through extensive SAT and Advanced Placement (AP) test prep. Private classes filled my after-school agenda, and summer vacation could hardly be called a break from academics, as I attended even more tutoring sessions to ensure high test scores.

Needless to say, these experiences took a toll on my patience, spirit and confidence. When I applied to journalism school Early Decision, I had almost accepted that I had little to no chance of getting in. But by that time, I was sick of letting numbers and grades dictate how I made my life choices. I rolled the dice and used my early application on the school I wanted to go to, not one that the numbers said I had the best chance of getting into. However, my doubt remained, and I truly believed that my application was a crapshoot.

I opened my decision letter after a post-school nap. My mom shook me awake, telling me to go check my email for my admission decision. I groggily protested that the decision wasn’t due for another week. Nevertheless, I half-heartedly clomped upstairs to my laptop. When I opened the email, I set my eyes on the word, “Congratulations.”

I screamed.

I was in disbelief. Even after I read the letter ten times over, I had to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. I had gotten in. All the effort I had put in was for this one moment of relief. My four-year high school journey was complete.

In hindsight, my doubt served as a testimony to my confidence regarding college admissions. Gunn students harbor so much of their sense of self-worth in the college they get into that it leads to two things: one, they have no faith that their abilities are worth something and two, their entire self-confidence lies on which college they are admitted to. This sentiment is poisonous but unfortunately common in the Gunn community. All the energy that students devote to test prep, AP classes, extracurricular activities and counseling is just building up too much excitement for the brief moment of opening an admissions letter. Today, I’m grateful to have gotten accepted into the college of my choice, but am still doubtful as to whether or not the lost sleep and emotional turmoil was worth it.

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